How to Take Good Pictures

How to take good pictures is not necessarily dependent on having an expensive camera. These tips will show you how to take good pictures whatever you shoot with.

They are for people who understand the basics of the camera controls and are looking for some picture taking tips to improve their photos.

Tip 1. Using the horizon effectively. If the horizon is positioned in the middle of the image, the result will be a picture that is balanced and calm, possibly even tending towards boring!  By placing the horizon in the upper third of the picture you draw attention to the foreground (see image below).

By placing the horizon in the lower third of the picture you can enhance the sky in a dramatic way which is particularly effective if the clouds look good (see image below).So for example, a beach scene with interesting boulders in the foreground might benefit from having the horizon in the upper third. Experiment with different placings. See also the landscape image above Tip 9 which has the horizon centrally placed.

Pink Rocks  (Côte de Granit Rose, Brittany, France) by Anne Darling

Above: Pink Rocks  (Côte de Granit Rose, Brittany, France) by Anne Darling

Above: Two Trees by Anne Darling

Tip 2. Beware of competing colours. Cool colours which have a lot of blue in them, tend to recede and warm colours with a lot of red/orange/yellow tend to come forward. So if there is a woman wearing a red dress  in the background of your shot, it can dominate the picture and 'drown out' your subject, even though the red dress is a long way away.

Tip 3. Try out macro mode. Remember that in macro mode, only a small part of the image will be in focus so make sure you focus on the most important part. If it's an animal or insect you will need to focus on their eye. If you take a great shot of a frog close to, and the eye is out of focus, then the image will not be effective. 

Bumble Bee by Anne Darling

Above: Bumble Bee by Anne Darling

Tip 4. Keep it simple. You don't need to include everything in your photo. Good composition develops through time but to begin, keep your compositions as simple as possible (see image below). Choose a position to stand that eliminates the clutter and concentrates on just one element. This may mean a wide view or a cropped view, depending on the subject. Take time to get it just as you want it. 

Field of Colza Flowers by Anne Darling

Above: Field of Colza Flowers by Anne Darling

Tip 5. Using available light. Don't use the flash for a change, use available light. Try out the higher ISO settings on your camera. You will get more digital noise, which is a grainy appearance, but your pictures will appear more natural. They may also have a more 'journalistic' feel to them, especially if you use the black and white function. 

Tip 6. Leaving space within the composition. Moving subjects should have space within the frame in which to move. If for example you take a picture of a cyclist moving at speed, leave room in front of them within the picture frame otherwise the shot will looked cramped. You can leave space behind them if you want to as well but the important thing is to leave more space in the direction of movement. 

Tip 7. Go on a photo shoot with another photographer. One of the best ways to learn how to take good pictures is to get feedback from a fellow photographer. If you can find someone to go out on photo shoots with and then critique each others pictures afterwards you can discover some interesting things! The great shot you absolutely love may not be the one that your friend likes most and there may be good reasons why, which you have overlooked. So if you really want to know how to take good pictures, don't be afraid of people who are critical of your work as you will learn more from them than by any other route.

Conversely, your friend may in fact like something you took, which you weren't mad about, for reasons you hadn't thought of. Photo criticism is an important aspect to learning what your audience likes and is an important activity especially if you hope to sell your work in the future. 

Tip 8. Bend your knees - yes really! If your photograph is taken at the same level as your subject's eyes, it will have much greater impact. This is particularly true with children and pets. It makes your shot feel more personal and also gives the viewer the feeling of participating in their world rather than, literally, looking down on it. 

Morlaix Bay by Anne Darling

Above: Morlaix Bay by Anne Darling

Tip 9. Make vertical shots. Make a conscious effort to try out vertical shots (portrait format) of everything from people to buildings to scenery. Shots that you would normally think of as 'landscape' can sometimes be interesting when shot as a portrait (see image above). Try taking two shots. Turn the camera through 90 degrees after you have taken a horizontal shot and make a second one. Compare them afterwards on your computer and see which you prefer.

Tip 10. Shooting small details. Often a detail can say more about a subject than including the whole thing. Move in close to eliminate distracting elements. You can use the macro function on the camera or zoom in. Or you can move your body physically closer to the object to avoid the increase in camera shake that can and usually does happen with macro and zoom functions.

Recommended Reading

If you are interested in finding out how to take good pictures I recommend Jim Miotke's Better Photo Guide. He is a well-established author with a range of books with clear, easy-to-follow advice, and his books are very popular.

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